The “new normal” – and why patients hate it

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

The “new normal”.  It’s what the freshly-diagnosed heart patient is supposed to get used to now. The implication seems clear:  Forget about your old life and the person you once were.”  Many of us fight that “new normal” label, but there might be another way to look at this.   . Continue reading “The “new normal” – and why patients hate it”

The importance of planning for everyday joy

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

When my mother was already showing early signs of her vascular dementia and had to move into an assisted-living apartment, she hated it. The staff reminded our family that “having something to look forward to” every day would help her feel more settled. They were so right. The move had been scary and overwhelming for Mom, but even knowing that after lunch she’d be playing cribbage or watching a favourite movie could bring a smile to her face.

We didn’t call it this at the time, but what Mom was doing, in the middle of all of her angst and fear, was planning joy.    Continue reading “The importance of planning for everyday joy”

The chest pain / panic connection

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     April 28, 2019

For most of us, feelings of anxiety or panic are generally occasional, mild and brief – normal responses to being worried or scared. I never thought of myself as a person who was prone to experience anxiety or panic – until I survived a heart attack. I can now tell you quite confidently that there are few things in life that are more anxiety-producing than being in the middle of a frickety-frackin’ heart attack. . . Continue reading “The chest pain / panic connection”

Drawing a picture of your diagnosis

 

Part of my latest mandala (a work in progress)

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    January 27, 2019

The late Madeleine Shields was a gifted artist and teacher here on the west coast of Canada. But more importantly to me, she was MY teacher. Her artistic expression of choice was the mandala, a Sanskrit word for “circle”. The mandala practice of Madeleine Shields was not what you might see in adult colouring books or on painted rocks at craft fairs. Hers was based on an ancient spiritual and meditative practice that she compared to “painting a mirror”. I can sometimes still hear her distinctive voice in my ear asking pointedly, “Did you do it well, or did you do it fast?”

A recent study supports what Madeleine had already figured out 20 years before her death, that art can intuitively reflect our deepest emotions in a surprisingly accurate fashion – and that’s especially true when we become patients. Continue reading “Drawing a picture of your diagnosis”

Some book excerpts to tease you…

 

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters 

It’s been quite the ride since my book was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2017! When it was launched, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Diseasebecame Amazon’s #1 New Release in the Medicine/Public Health category. The book is now in its second printing, and reviews have been truly wonderful – with one notable exception: an Australian reader named Robert who complained in his review that there was a bit too much emphasis on how women are neglected when it comes to heart disease” – and then added: “Happily for me, my doctors, nurses and physios did everything by the book.”

Thank you Robert, for helping to illustrate the cardiology gender gap so perfectly!

Here are some random excerpts from my book, gathered from each of the 10 chapters.
Continue reading “Some book excerpts to tease you…”

When are cardiologists going to start talking about depression?

by Carolyn Thomas    ♥   @HeartSisters

I can vividly remember those early days and weeks at home after surviving a heart attack, especially that cold creeping anxiety around how I “should” be feeling. I had just survived what many do not: what doctors still call the “widow maker” heart attack. (By the way, note the gender semantics there, please: doctors are not, after all, calling this the widower maker”).

I was now resting comfortably, both of my darling kidlets had flown back home to be with their Mum, our home was filled with flowers, get-well cards and casseroles delivered by the daily line-up of concerned friends, family, neighbours and co-workers.

So why was I feeling so bleak inside, and even worse, now feeling guilty for all that bleakness?  Continue reading “When are cardiologists going to start talking about depression?”